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It’s a little over a week until election day and the local campaigns are in full swing. As a political science graduate from Utah State University and a many-times-over campaign staffer or manager, I learned some interesting tidbits that I often reflect on when local elections come around.

First, local elections can be overlooked by the general population. The percentages of people who vote in national and state elections tend to be much higher. Out of 10,000 registered voters, around 6,000 will vote in a presidential election. About 4,000 will participate in a midterm. In most local city or county elections, less than 15% of registered voters, or about 1,500 out of 10,000, will come to the polls or mail in ballots.

The irony is that a single vote makes little difference in a big election. But in a local election, a handful of votes can tip the scales. In Cache Valley, more than one election has been decided by a single vote. The smaller the election, the more important your vote is.

Not only that, the local elections determine who will be guiding the community at its most detailed level. After all, mayors and city councils determine zoning regulations, create city plans, and are responsible for local property taxes and utility costs.

Despite that, many people do not participate in local elections. Or if they do, they fall into the 80% of uninformed voters who vote based solely on name recognition.

Which brings us to tidbit number two: name recognition. Ever wonder why the Kennedys and the Bushes of the world do so well at election time? Or why campaign posters and fliers seem to be growing on trees during elections?

It’s all in the name. The more a name is up in lights, the more likely it is that a voter will recognize that name on election day and check the box beside it.

In Cache Valley, that might not be as much of an issue since many people are familiar with their mayoral and council candidates. But for minor offices or less familiar ones, like judges, name recognition brings results.

The job of every political machine is to put the candidates name in bigger, bolder display. Generally speaking, the candidate with the bigger budget can get his or her name out in front of more voters. That means the candidate with the most money often wins.

So the question is how can an everyday voter be sure they aren’t swayed by the advertising of deep pocketed candidates? Or how can a voter tell which candidate best represents them in spite of campaign slogans and shiny posters?

Which brings me to my final point: it’s easier than ever for voters to become well informed.

Almost every candidate has a website, a blog, or a social media presence. Websites like vote.utah.gov are also helpful, as they show a profile of most candidates. Looking up a candidate for even a few minutes can tell a voter where the candidate leans and what they intend to do to benefit the community.

In addition, candidates running for reelection often have voting records which can be perused online. Most city meetings have minutes available on their websites or on hardcopy at the city offices. An hour or two of reading minutes will show a voter how a candidate uses his or her opportunities in office.

And of course, there are the candidates themselves. Most candidates are more accessible to the public than in any previous generation. They will give out an email, or even a phone number, for voters to contact them. If a voter has questions that are not covered in online sources, that voter can drop the candidate a line.

All that information is accessible for a reason. Today’s voters demand more responsiveness and accountability from their elected officials. That is usually a good thing. There are times, though, when even the voters can go too far, letting loose in public forums, calling names, shouting, and even cursing at candidates and officials. That’s absolutely uncalled for.

While voters are important and should be listened to, having a voice in the community doesn’t give anyone the right to abuse an elected representative.

Elected representatives are trying to balance their own opinion with the public’s opinion. All things considered, most local officials do a very fine job of that. When they don’t, elections always come around. It’s probably no coincidence that “Time for a change” is the most popular and well-received campaign slogan in history.

To summarize, now is the time for voters to decide the fate of the community. Instead of griping about elected officials and having recall elections, it benefits voters to take the time to become informed prior to election day an cast a ballot. There’s plenty of information out there, even on local candidates. And the more voters know about the candidates, the better they can judge if the candidate will represent them well.

This election, maybe it is “Time for a Change.” It’s time for local voters to make sure they are engaged, involved, and informed. As a community, we can overcome the dismal statistic of low voter turnouts this November 2 by taking time to visit the polls. After all, in Cache Valley one vote can make the difference. That’s a tidbit you can vote for every time.

Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at katecole9@yahoo.com

Please be aware that Cache Valley Publishing does not endorse, and is not responsible for alleged employment offers in the comments.

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